Friday, August 15, 2008

On the Other Side of the Ferry

Friday afternoon was hot and muggy; it felt like weather brought in from somewhere else. But at the end of the work day Mrs. C and I hopped in the little Subaru and motored up to Bremerton for a night away. Chairman will mind rocky acres and we’ll get up on Saturday and go for bike rides put on by Seattle International Randonneurs. She to ride the 100K populaire and I to (try) to ride the 200K. These events commemorate the 10th anniversary of the founding of Randonneurs USA or RUSA for short.

So far this year I am batting about zero (or slightly less) in my attempts at organized brevets. There comes a point when such a ‘streak’ begins to feel like a curse. In the parlance of the west, the term ‘snake bit’ comes to mind. This should be an easy course, and other than too much heat there should not be much to get between me and a finish. But I’m awfully out of shape and 200 kilometers has not looked so far in a long time.

Rides will be ridden, reports will be written,
It’s sort of like poetry, ... but really it issen’

Rather than go into a pedal stroke by pedal stroke ride report, I'll just roll out a few observations in about the order they came to mind.

We stayed at a motel close to the start which made the morning pre-ride routine a little different. No long drive in the dark, no sorting clothes and gear in the back of the car by the dome light, no last minute concern about where to fill the bottles. That’s all done. The bike leans in a corner ready to go and I can take a few moments to relax and contemplate the day ahead. I gazed out at the waterfront in the predawn light, knowing that on the other side of the Sound, riders were queuing up to board the ferry for the boat ride over. Downtown Bremerton has changed a lot since the 60’s when I attended the little community college here. The bright, shiny ferry terminal is worlds different from the creosote timbers and tread worn hardwood floors of the dark and drafty old shed.

I didn't sleep well the night befor. I woke with a head ache and a sour stomach. I was worried that I'd have 'stomach trouble' on the ride. To have any chance at success this day I'm going to need things to go about as right as possible.

As the morning light crept in it was clear that this would be another beautiful late summer day in the Pacific Northwest. I’m a native; Sure I’ve lived in other places, and I know we have a reputation for rain, clouds, and drizzle. But I have always maintained that when it is ‘nice’ here it’s hard to beat. I brought a vest and arm warmers, but it's clear these won't be needed today.

At Starbucks I got my coffee and took a seat outside, savoring the quiet, knowing that soon it would get busy. One by one other riders started to show up, and then Eric was there registering us. Most were familiar faces and it was fun to catch up with rides I had not seen or heard much of recently. We’re the ‘other side of the ferry’ crowd, usually a much smaller contingent than the ‘unloading from the Ferry’ crowd.

Presently the ferry unloads and now there are lots of riders, obviously more than had pre-registered. This might have been the most fun time of the day for me. I’m not sure why, but I identify with this ‘Coxey’s army’ of cyclists. Such an eclectic mix of bikes, gear, and obviously differently life styles. I get a kick out of the fact that the lack of uniformity is probably what we have in common. Show up at a Saturday morning racer bike type ride and the biggest difference you find is the color of the carbon fiber, or the different euro-brand of spandex. I fit in here, I wouldn’t there. Eric gives a few pre-ride notes, emphasizes the unique challenges of this course (rumblestrips and black berry bushes), a few clues about the info controls and with that we are off.

And it is just like old times, for a brief moment I’m in a pack of cyclists listening to gears click, chains on cogs, the hum of tires on pavement and then, in a few minutes they’re all up ahead and once again I’m at the back of the pack. The ride out past the shipyard is uneventful, and soon we are tooling along the waterfront in Port Orchard. The ‘Bad Carb’ control pops up shortly, a few riders are still there having a treat and getting their cards signed. I get in and out pretty quickly but manage to get a chocolate chip cookie in the process. Thanks Maggie and Catherine for the support.

On down the road and I need to either find a portapotty or some bushes. I woke up with a sour stomach ache and pretending it isn’t there has not really worked. Fortunately the Manchester boat ramp offers a public restroom. Unfortunately this will be a recurring theme for much of the morning.

Along the water and up and down hills. Such a funny place the Kitsap Peninsula. I remember riding along this waterfornt from the the opposite direction on the Peninsula Metric Century, a TCC ride, and my first ever organized Century. Strange to think that was back in the last century. Oh yes, the hills of the Kitsap Peninsula. Mr. Garmin suggests that we accumulated slightly less than 6,000 feet but even so, there was a fair amount of up and down.

Coming Down Hwy 3 with traffic into Belfair my ride nearly came to an abrupt end: I was in the lane doing an honest 35, had the right of way, and being on a bike I was of course INVISIBLE to the three guys in the racy little car trying to scoot across traffic in what was clearly an illegal left turn. You know that ‘deer in the headlights’ moment where everything sort of freezes for an instant? That’s not me; I go more for the ‘screaming, swearing, foaming at the mouth, righteous fat guy on a bike’ response: It worked. We made eye contact and the guy locked it up right there in the middle of the highway as I slipped around his front bumper. MAx HR while coasting down hill.

The run into Twanoh was sweet. It was a warm day and the canal was beautiful. I rode a little with Ray. I asked what he was doing back here. Its sort of a game, just about everyone that shows up at the back unexpectedly has a tale to tell of bonus miles, Special K's I call them. We rode along together and chatted for a bit. I had not seen him since we ran a control together on the 600K earlier in the year.

At Twanoh Peter had things set up nicely. I was reminded of another control Peter had set up here a few years ago. It had been a secret control I think and he had Pizza, it was a nice surprise then. I had two V8s and a double shot, a quick trip to the can (third time!) bottles filled (thank you Peter and Catherine!) and then away. I was in and out fairly quickly, stomach still churning.

On the way back up the canal I came upon Dan and Mary and their tandem. Clearly they've had some trouble and I learn that they had a front tire blowout and crashed. I stopped to help out and was shocked to see blood, lots of blood on the road and on Marys leg and all over her hand. This has just happened and I can see that they are both still pumped full of adrenaline. A quick assessment shows that Dan’s worst injury is hamburger elbow. Deep road rash with a liberal mix of gravel. This is going to hurt tomorrow. We get Mary cleaned up a little and it’s clear that she has a short but deep gash on the back of her hand, about at the first knuckle of he ring finger. Suspiciously close to her wedding ring.

I get out the trusty old blue bandana hankie and get her to applying direct pressure, no serious pain so I assume nothing is broken, and then rummage though my bag. Fortunately I have a crash pack in there. Nothing major and it takes up almost no space. Half the size of a sandwich bag, it’s got a few band aids, some compresses, some antiseptic wipes, and some antibiotic ointment. I ask if they plan to ride on and they say of course. Dan has a tire so I suggest we get the front wheel off to see how the rim looks. With the tire blown half off the rim it's a challenge but eventually we get it off and give it a spin. At first it looks bad but if you concentrate on looking just at the rim it looks rideable. I think they can get it back together but I suspect they’ll start getting stiff and sore once the adrenalin wears off. So I leave them to the mechanical issue and I’m on my way. A few take home lessons here:
1. Don’t have a front tire blowout. Well, actually that’s not really a decision, but
2. Be prepared for a little medical emergency.
3. Do you have anything in your bag to deal with cuts, scrapes, road rash or other minor first aid needs? No? Well it does not take up much space, and it does not weigh much, and even if you don’t plan on needing it for yourself, you just never know who might need a little help down the way. Think of it as a patch kit for the human body.
3. Ladies, (and Gents too) leave the bling at home. I know that beautiful rock the love struck dummy gave you way back when means forever, but on a bike ride it’s no asset and actually does represent a liability. I always leave my wedding ring at home and Mrs. C understands that I just don’t want to lose or damage it.

Back through Belfair and now the day is warming up. I checked the thermometer on my Buck Rogers decoder communication watch (Suunto) a few times and it never read over 88 but when you’re climbing on hot pavement in the direct sun it feels hot. Being a native, anytime I’m in that sitation it's challenging.

Dave catches up to a few of us slow pokes at the next control and I learn that HE MISSED THE FERRY! and thus started probably more than an hour after us, and here he is having a bottle of iced tea. He’s a stud! By now I need to eat. I know I need to eat but I also have this sour stomach to deal with. I have a Mtn Dew and bottle of cranberry juice. I avoid any of the rando standards: Stale pizze pocket, mystery meat sandwich, chips, they all sound dangerous to me.
Back out into the sun and rolling hills of Kitsap country. We push north and soon my riding companions are dots on the road ahead.

I knew that stretch along Central Vally would be hard for me. I rode that a few weeks ago and it did me in, so I psyched myself up for the challenge. I stopped at a gas station minimart about half way up and got a bottle of cold water, replenished my bottles and had another double shot. James rolled in and he looked like the heat was getting to him too. Soon we'll be zigzaggin through old Poulsbo and I'm counting on Big Valley offering a little more hospitality.

There was more direct sun at Big Valley than I expected but we had wind. As I beat into the head wind I asked myself a philosophical question: Would it be better to ride in the oppressive heat with a head wind, or to have no head wind and just the heat? I come to the conclusion that it would be better not to be asking myself these inane freaking questions!

It’s a good bet that once we make the turn at Port Gamble and start the run south we’ll be on the shady side of the road and hopefully that wind will be pushing us home. At the Junction of Hwy three I pull off at the store/gas station, use the bathroom (again!) get water, pick up a pack of gum and take a break in the shade outside. I knew I needed a rest because in the store I pulled out my card and asked the clerk if he knew the drill about the card. He gave me a look and so I commenced to find the spot for his initials and the time and then it hit me; this isn’t a control. Never mind. Out the door around the corner for a few minutes to hydrate and try to cool down a bit.

Once again on the road and I see another couple riders. It’s Robert and his pal, they went steaming by me when I was patching up Dan and Mary, I figured they’d be at the finish by now. He slows to talk a bit. Why is anyone ever at the back from out of nowhere? A tale of bonus miles. I tell him that happens when you ride along talking. This will come back to bite me later.

Around through Port Gamble and on the run south. Into the Brewery control, Peter and Eric are there. I’m just looking for something cold and bland to drink. The thought of a bratwurst at the moment gives me an involuntary shiver. I need to get rolling so snap at Erik to sign my card. He gives me a look and I feel a lecture coming on. I grab the card and hand it to Catherine and ask her admittedly more politely to sign the card. "I was just about to ask for please" Eric says. "I know you were", I respond. But just now I don't have a please or much of any civility in me. On the way out Peter fills my bottles again and offers a cold drink. It turns out he’s got a can of sparkling soda. Just the thing I think. K-Mart Perrier, It hits the spot and I’m off.

Here I want to publicly apologize to Eric. He put on a great ride and supported all of us very well. I wasn’t on my best manners and for that there is no excuse. Off down the road, back through Poulsbo. Along Viking way I can see that I have enough time in the bank that if I can just nurse it along I should be able to get this one in the bag if I don't blow up. Exertion brings on the naseaua, so just roll easy for ten miles or so.

Robert rolls up again and offers to ride along. I’m sure this must have been excruciatingly slow for him but it was a great help to me. A little conversation helps to take my mind off the discord in the boiler room.

Eventually I feel a bonk coming on. It's a dillemma. I know it’s too far to the finish to go without eating but at the same time I’m wary of putting anything in my stomach. There is really only one choice: I stop, I gag down another mojo bar and slowly pedal on. My old tricks: I did this once with Narayan a few years ago in the very wee hours of the morning heading to the ferry at Winslow. In the old days I would be able to feel the recovey in ten or fifteen minutes. In this case it’s a little longer. Even though my stomach is still sending distress signals my legs loose that shakiness and I’m back to coherent. We ride and talk, it’s pleasant to be out on bikes on a little used road on a sunny afternoon.

Did I mention that talking with firends while riding can lead to bonus miles?
It occures to me that we are on a road that’s not on the cue sheet. I pull over and ask a local if this road will get us to the Manette bridge. Yes she says. She‘s very helpful and wants to give us turn by turn directions. We are again on our way and up the road a mile or two we come to a bridge underpass. I shout ahead to Robert that we need to be up there. We do a little hike-a-bike up the stairs. ‘Back in the day’ there was only one bridge here, now there are two, and I can see we are on the wrong one. No matter, we have to cross over and and it’s easy to see where we need to get to.

A little dead rekoning through town and here we are rolling into the finish, crossing the line with a new old friend.

Hey, there is news on another front I want to share with you:

We had a little Banquet at home on Monday night:. Chairman the crabby cat was the guest of honor. A fresh can of chunk light tuna (waterpack) with a candle in the middle, woo hoo!

Monday I went back to see the allergist (cat and oak do-over) and what do you know? No Allergy! This we are sure of this time. After the first re-do the doc came in and was, well, mildly surprised. So, just to make sure, I got a second dose. This second (actually the third testing since this time last year) was administered on the back of my upper arm. I knew this was a “lets make damn sure” effort because this time nurse Rachett drew blood.

She came in ten minutes later and said “all right, now we’re getting somewhere!” I of course could not see the results so once she left I got into an awkward yoga pose to get a look in the mirror on the medicine chest door. There was blood! Well sure, if you’re gonna fillet me with a Buck knife I’m bound to react. I was wondering how objective this test was going to be when the good Doc came in to have a look. He expressed his complete surprise when he told me, no cat allergy! 'really" I said. "Haven’t you had a look?" " No" I lied, I’m not a contortionist. "Oh here, have a look", and he opened the adjoining door to display a full length mirror. There was a small but obvious spot of skin irritation and I asked him about this. "Oh that's nothing" he assured me. This test was administered with a stronger concentrate of allergen, and he would expect to see something, this is really almost nothing.

So we had a little talk about what if anything else in the world of allergies might be the source of my problem. It would be great if getting over this was as simple as getting rid of my trophy Yak hide matteress cover or some such. He thought allergies were probably not the culprit but now his interest was piqued so he sent me down for a blood test to check for immune deficiency. It’s a long shot, 1 in 500 chance that this is the culprit.

So on the way home I bought a potted catnip plant and the aforementioned stinky hors d’ouvers for his immenseness. I need to make amends as I have been telling him for the last week that he makes me sick.


  1. Man hats off to you Paul, awesome fortitude man! And good to hear you can still live in the house with the Chairman. It would be a bummer to live in the garage.

  2. I've been meaning to ask where you found that Commie picture of the Chairman from your last post. It was a beautiful rendition of his authority over the household.